Team Refugees at Rio Olympics

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has partnered with Grey London and Just So Films to tell the story of the ten refugee athletes competing in Rio as unified team fully funded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). At a time when global forced displacement is at a record high, these ten swimmers, runners and judokas represent the hopes and dreams of a vast population in need of international protection. “Team Refugees: Champions against all odds”, an inspirational 90 second short film, is the trailer for a long form Team Refugees documentary, designed to build respect and empathy for the global refugee population as well as this team of ten. The film will be hosted on the UNHCR YouTube page and featured on the Google UK homepage.

Team Refugees swimmer

The Team Refugees documentary tells the story of 65 million people forced from their homes, distilled into the experience of a few. A human perspective on the biggest crisis of our generation, the film is about determination and dignity.

“These ten remarkable athletes embody the determination and resilience of the many millions of people fleeing conflict and persecution worldwide,” said Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s Head of Communications and Public Information. “They remind us that refugees are people just like you and me, people who want to achieve their full potential against all odds.”

“The word refugee provokes feelings of negativity, fear or at best, sympathy. We want to inspire admiration instead of pity. Because to be a refugee is to have survived, to have endured, to have never given up,” said Richard Ascott, Managing Director of Just So.

Reaching out through social media, Just So built a deep bond with the Olympic hopefuls, capturing training, family life and the world they now inhabit, while also providing them with their own cameras to film their daily lives. The film is still in production.

“We don’t know how the story will unfold,” Ascott continued, “but we do know that there are endless examples of people of ability and ambition who because of horrendous circumstances beyond their control have been expelled from their homes. Our hope is that global media and audiences will support their cause. We have a duty to tell their story.”

Jono Stevens, director, adds: “It is a flaw of the human brain that the more we are exposed to horrors and great sadness, the less impact it has on us. The story of these athletes and indeed all refugees is one of both triumph and struggle and in presenting both so starkly juxtaposed, it gives us a sense of the broader story and forces us to engage.”

“We represent all refugees and we want to show the world our potential. We will prove that we are very capable, and when we are provided adequate conditions, we can achieve great results,” said 25-year-old swimmer, Rami Anis, who fled Syria and found refuge in Belgium.

Rami is one of ten athletes on Team Refugees. He is joined by another Syrian swimmer, Yusra Mardini;South Sudanese runners Yiech Pur Biel (800m), James Nyang Chiengjiek (400m), Anjelina Nada Lohalith (1,500m), Rose Nathike Lokonyen (800m), and Paulo Amotun Lokoro (1,500m); Ethiopian marathon runner Yonas Kinde; and judo players Yolande Mabika and Popole Misenga, both from Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sarah Jenkins, Chief Marketing Officer Grey London added: “As a creative agency, we work with brands to raise awareness and change perceptions. In partnership with Just So, our “client” is the global refugee population. And our goal is to change the way the world sees them. By coproducing this film and using our combined strategic and creative skills to help it land in culture, we hope to make a positive contribution to the refugee crisis.”

According to the UNHCR, an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes to escape persecution, conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

UNHCR is urging viewers inspired by the film to sign its #WithRefugees petition. Launched on 1st June with the help of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett and a host of other UNHCR supporters, including Ben Stiller, Mika, Helen Mirren and Benedict Cumberbatch, the petition has already gained more than 475,000 signatures. It calls on governments to ensure that every refugee child gets an education, that all refugee families have somewhere safe to live and that all refugees can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their communities. Pledge your support withrefugees.org.

Team Refugees Credits

The Team Refugees team at Grey London were creative directors Andy Lockley and Pete Gatley, head of content production/executive producer Jessica Ringshall, assistant producer Talia Shear, account director Justine Deighan, chief marketing officer Sarah Jenkins, head of PR and communication Veronique Rhys Evans.

The Team Refugees team at Just So Films were creative directors/film directors J&J (Jono Stevens and Jonny Madderson), executive producer Richard Ascott and producer Matt Diegan, with assistant producer Liv Proctor, directors of photography Charlie Goodger, Luke Bryant, Daniel Venosa, and Dominic Bartels, researchers Sophie Perrins, Gideon Berends, Flora Hamilton, Gretha Viana, Lucy Chapman.

Editor was Simon Hargood at The Assembly Rooms. Post production was done at The Mill by colourist Oisin O’Driscoll and online editor Brad Wood.

Sound and music were produced at Father by sound designer Iain Grant, composers Freddie Webb and Joe Farley.

Additional footage is provided courtesy of BBC, The Guardian, Journeyman TV, Associated Press, CNN, Christian Broadcast Network, Discover The Journey, Marc Silver, Nick Francis, Amnesty International, Lior Sperandeo, ITN Source, Samaritans Purse, Invisible Children, Jonathan Darby, Human Rights Watch.